Cessnock councillor slams Maitland as “the saddest place in the Hunter”
Sept. 25, 2015, 10:20 p.m by Damon Cronshaw, Newcastle Herald
MAITLAND’s urban sprawl, rampant consumerism and car-reliant culture made it the “saddest place in the Hunter”, Cessnock councillor James Ryan says.
Cr Ryan, a Greens member, railed against Maitland’s shopping-mall culture and McMansions with small backyards and few trees.
He was not aiming to criticise Maitland’s people or personalities, but said a pro-development attitude had created a “planning mess” and “massive urban sprawl”.
“They’ve chopped up everything vaguely above the floodplain bit by bit and have bugger all vegetation left,” Cr Ryan said.
“It would be a crying shame if Cessnock became like that.”
Maitland-based businessman Hilton Grugeon said “the Greens would like to take away our freedom”.
“If people choose to live in the suburbs, that’s their choice,” Mr Grugeon said.
“Maitland offers something that Cessnock, up until now, has not been able to offer.
“There is improvement in Cessnock, as some realise what it could be.”
Cr Ryan said Cessnock must maintain its character, history and identity.
“We have this beautiful rural outlook – much of it is forested and it’s a pleasure to live in,” he said.
“We don’t have the same traffic congestion and we don’t need to pursue exponential growth.”
Mr Grugeon said it was sad when populations and services fall in towns with dwindling local economies.
“If Cessnock doesn’t have any growth, it’ll need to be swallowed up by an adjoining council and I hope it’s not Maitland,” he said.
Cr Ryan said Cessnock was going well with its “world-class vineyards which provide more employment than the mining industry” and “a vibrant educated community”.
He said this led to construction of more freeways, strangled civic life, reduced diversity and marginalised the poor.
“If you’re homeless and you want to put out your hat and ask for some coin, they would move you on.”
He said a freeway-obsessed and car-loving culture left “down and out people to catch the trains and buses”.
“There’s a fundamental problem when well-off people in a community start isolating themselves from everybody else,” he said.
“It provides a false sense of what your community is.